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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Photoshop Actions

How to Create a Sparkle Effect Photoshop Action

Read Time: 8 mins
This post is part of a series called Learn Photoshop Actions.
How to Create Pop Art Photo Effects With Photoshop Actions
How to Create a Typography Photo Effect Action in Adobe Photoshop
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create a sparkle overlay effect Photoshop action. I will explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create it, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time. 

The effect shown above is the one I will show you how to create in this tutorial. If you would like to create the even more advanced magic dust effect below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Magic Dust 2 Photoshop Action.

Magic Dust 2 Photoshop actionMagic Dust 2 Photoshop actionMagic Dust 2 Photoshop action

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

What You'll Need

To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:

1. Let's Get Started

First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:

  1. Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
  2. For best results, your photo size should be 2000–3000 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
  3. Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Checking image size and modeChecking image size and modeChecking image size and mode

2. How to Create the Sparkles Brush

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the brush that we will need for this effect. Choose the Brush Tool (B) and pick a soft brush. Then, go to Window > Brush and in the Brush window use the settings below:

Adjusting brush settingsAdjusting brush settingsAdjusting brush settings

Step 2

Now to define this brush with new settings as a new brush, click on the top right icon in the bottom right corner of the Brush panel, and name it Sparkles.

Defining new brushDefining new brushDefining new brush

3. How to Create the Sparkles

Step 1

In this section we are going to create the sparkles. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Small_1.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 2

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 10 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 3

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Small_2. Then, drag this layer just below the Sparkles_Small_1 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 4

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 10 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 5

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Medium_1. Then, drag this layer just below the Sparkles_Small_2 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 6

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 35 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 7

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Medium_2. Then, drag this layer just below the Sparkles_Medium_1 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 8

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 35 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 9

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Large_1. Then, drag this layer just below the Sparkles_Medium_2 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 10

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 50 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 11

Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer and name it Sparkles_Large_1. Then, drag this layer just below the Sparkles_Large_1 layer in the Layers panel.

Creating new layerCreating new layerCreating new layer

Step 12

Now choose the Brush Tool (B), select the Sparkles brush, and set the Diameter of the brush to around 75 px. Then, set the foreground color to #ffffff and brush as shown below (decrease the Diameter of the brush as you brush from the edges of the photo towards the center):

Brushing into layerBrushing into layerBrushing into layer

Step 13

Select the Sparkles_Small_1 layer, go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color to create a new solid color fill layer, name it SS_1_Color, and choose the color #eea815 as shown below:

Creating new solid color fill layerCreating new solid color fill layerCreating new solid color fill layer

Step 14

Now press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask. Then, select the Sparkles_Small_1 layer and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Linear Dodge (Add).

Creating clipping maskCreating clipping maskCreating clipping mask

Step 15

Select the SS_1_Color layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. Then, drag this layer just above the Sparkles_Medium_1 layer in the Layers panel. After that, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask.

Duplicating layerDuplicating layerDuplicating layer

Step 16

Now name this layer SM_1_Color. Then, select the Sparkles_Medium_1 layer and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Linear Dodge (Add).

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

Step 17

Select the SM_1_Color layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. Then, drag this layer just above the Sparkles_Large_1 layer in the Layers panel. After that, press Control-Alt-G on your keyboard to create a clipping mask.

Duplicating layerDuplicating layerDuplicating layer

Step 18

Now name this layer SL_1_Color. Then, select the Sparkles_Large_1 layer and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Linear Dodge (Add).

Changing blending modeChanging blending modeChanging blending mode

Step 19

Select the SS_1_Color layer and Shift-click on the Sparkles_Large_2 layer to select all layers between. Then, go to Layer > New > Group from Layers to create a new group from the selected layers and name it Sparkles.

Creating new group from layersCreating new group from layersCreating new group from layers

4. How to Create the Focus

Step 1

In this section, we are going to create the focus. Select the Background layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer, and name it Focus_1.

Creating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, use the settings below:

Adjusting levelsAdjusting levelsAdjusting levels

Step 3

Choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, set the foreground color to #000000, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layer maskBrushing into layer maskBrushing into layer mask

Step 4

Now select the Background layer and press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate it. Then, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 10 px.

Adding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filterAdding gaussian blur filter

Step 5

Go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All to add a layer mask that reveals the whole layer.

Adding layer maskAdding layer maskAdding layer mask

Step 6

Choose the Brush Tool (B), pick a soft brush, set the foreground color to #000000, and brush as shown below:

Brushing into layer maskBrushing into layer maskBrushing into layer mask

Step 7

Now name this layer Focus_2.

Renaming layerRenaming layerRenaming layer

5. How to Make the Final Adjustments

Step 1

In this section, we are going to make final adjustments to the design. Select the Sparkles folder, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves to create a new curves adjustment layer, and name it Color Look.

Creating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layerCreating new curves adjustment layer

Step 2

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel enter the settings below:

Adjusting curvesAdjusting curvesAdjusting curves

Step 3

Press D on your keyboard to reset the swatches. Then, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map to create a new gradient map adjustment layer and name it Overall Contrast.

Creating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layerCreating new gradient map adjustment layer

Step 4

Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Overlay and set the Opacity to 10%.

Changing blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacity

Step 5

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.

Creating new vibrance adjustment layerCreating new vibrance adjustment layerCreating new vibrance adjustment layer

Step 6

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel, set the Vibrance to +10 and the Saturation to +5.

Adjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturationAdjusting vibrance and saturation

Step 7

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer and name it Overall Brightness.

Creating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layerCreating new levels adjustment layer

Step 8

Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and in the Properties panel enter the settings below:

Adjusting levelsAdjusting levelsAdjusting levels

Step 9

Press Control-Alt-Shift-E on your keyboard to make a screenshot, and then press Control-Shift-U to desaturate this layer. Then, go to Filter > Other > High Pass and set the Radius to 2 px.

Adding high pass filterAdding high pass filterAdding high pass filter

Step 10

Change the Blending Mode of this layer to Vivid Light and set the Opacity to 50%. Then, name this layer Overall Sharpening.

Changing blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacityChanging blending mode and opacity

You Made It!

Congratulations, you have succeeded! Here is our final result:

Final result sparkle effect photoshopFinal result sparkle effect photoshopFinal result sparkle effect photoshop

If you would like to create the even more advanced magic dust effects below, using just a single click and in only a few minutes, then check out my Magic Dust 2 Photoshop Action.

The action works so you simply draw a path over your photo where you want the effect to appear and just play the action. It's really that simple! The sparkles remain fully layered, and you have full control over them to customize them—you can move, scale, or rotate them, remove them, or duplicate them to create even more sparkles! The action will also create 15 preset color looks that you can choose from.

The action comes with a detailed video tutorial that demonstrates how to use the action and customize the results to get the most out of the effect.

Magic dustMagic dustMagic dust

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